Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Off the Table: A Sale of Merrill Lynch

Brian Moynihan
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

If there’s one thing that seems pretty firmly established by the restructuring of Bank of America’s management it is that Merrill Lynch won’t be spun off.

Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan has long said that he had no plans to sell Merrill. Instead, the bank would focus on selling "non-core assets."

But many persisted in the belief that Bank of America would eventually sell Merrill—because that seemed like such a smart thing to do. It was very clear that Merrill would be worth more as a stand-alone property than it is as part of Bank of America.

The restructuring kills this possibility. It now seems very likely that Merrill Lynch will simply be further “integrated” into Bank of America—which is to say, it will be made a duller, diminished place.

Many financial advisers will likely be allowed to leave, if not outright fired. Those that remain will, in all likelihood, very soon find their compensation and retention packages matching those at Bank of America's other property U.S. Trust.

A Merrill financial adviser quoted by DealJournal’s David Benoit captures the spirit of the thing:

The restructuring, “seems like a winding down of the infrastructure that advisers value,” the adviser said, referring to the current unit, in which Merrill Lynch’s 16,000-member advisory force is the centerpiece. Since the acquisition of Merrill, advisers have been encouraged to offer banking products, a push which is likely to continue further with the unit’s alignment with the retail bank.


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